Posts tagged OCA
(Editor’s note: Today, we are very pleased to introduce a new author here at OrthodoxHistory.org. Deacon Matthew Francis lives in Edmonton, Alberta, and is one of the leading historians of Orthodoxy in Canada. For some time now, he has been conducting independent research into the life of Archbishop Arseny Chagovtsov, among many other aspects of Canadian Orthodox history. The article that follows is helpful in understanding why so many people in Canada have such great affection for Abp Arseny, who, indeed, had a significant impact on Orthodoxy in both Canada and the United States.)
Over the past several weeks, much has been written – both on OrthodoxHistory.org and elsewhere – about the 1909 libel trials involving Archbishop Arseny (Chagovtsov). Unfortunately, for many casual observers, this episode, while very important, may be all they know of this fascinating figure, who played a significant role in Orthodox history in North America.
In the interests of full disclosure, and by way of personal introduction, I acknowledge up front that I write as both a deacon of the Archdiocese of Canada and as a historical researcher. While I was not a member of the Archdiocesan Committee that researched and prepared the Vita, I have over the past few years conducted oral history relating to Vladyka Arseny’s legacy, interviewing elder clergy and faithful that knew him personally. In December of 2009, I was asked by His Eminence, Archbishop Seraphim, to continue this research work, collaborating with Fr. John Hainsworth. I have been carrying out this task, and continue to do so. While there is much that we know about Archbishop Arseny’s life, there are also many elusive questions for which we still seek greater knowledge. So, as time permits, we endeavor to track down the various sources and pursue leads to understand more deeply the context and meaning of Archbishop Arseny’s work. It is hoped that all of these efforts, now spanning approximately twenty years within the Archdiocese of Canada, will be useful to the renewed Canonization Commission of the Orthodox Church in America as they carry out their investigative work with all prayerful diligence, faith, and prudence.
In this light, I am grateful for the work of OrthodoxHistory.org, and of both Matthew Namee and Fr. Oliver Herbel for bringing to light the sources around the 1909 criminal libel trial against the publication Svoboda. I do, however, differ from Fr. Oliver in my conclusions about the alleged 1906 rape of Mary Krinitsky. While acknowledging that it is probably impossible to establish his guilt or innocence with certainty, Fr. Oliver leans towards the possibility of Archbishop Arseny’s guilt. I believe that that there is a strong case to be made that he was, in fact, innocent. While I will articulate this claim in future posts, it should be clarified that Mary Krinitsky ultimately denied that any such assault ever happened in the first place.
The purpose of this post is not to re-state the basic introductions to Archbishop Arseny available elsewhere online, such as the Orthodox wiki article or the Vita prepared by the Canonization Committee of the O.C.A.’s Archdiocese of Canada. Rather, my purpose in writing is to briefly highlight some specific aspects of his life and career, indicating along the way some of the context behind why Archbishop Arseny has been considered for glorification as a saint. In future articles, I intend to introduce readers of this site to other aspects of Orthodox history in Canada. Along the way, I will address in detail important vignettes from the life of Archbishop Arseny, such as the occasion of his being shot in Canora, Saskatchewan while attending a clergy assembly in 1935.
Archbishop Arseny’s ministry is broad in scope, spanning continents and many different types of service over six tumultuous decades. In this post, I would like to highlight some of the historical roles that this intrepid man took on. I believe that sketching out these roles provides an appropriate balance and context to the ongoing, and essential, discussion of the serious accusations made against Archbishop Arseny. Sound discernment of whether he should be formally recognized as a God-bearing saint will emerge from this kind of balanced searching for truth, taking all things into account. While some may dismiss these themes as overtly hagiographic, they are apparent in the historical record, in letters and articles in the Vestnik, and must be given their due. St. Tikhon’s Monastery has a cache of highly relevant material easily accessible.
Archbishop Arseny transmitted Orthodox monastic life to North America
In early 1905, the young Hieromonk Arseny was serving in the North American Diocese as Rector of the Parish of St. John the Baptist in Mayfield Pennsylvania. He dreamed of developing a monastery that could serve as a spiritual heart for the mission in America. The story of the founding of what would become St. Tikhon of Zadonsk Monastery has Archbishop Arseny as its protagonist. He traveled in a horse and buggy with St. Tikhon over the hills of Pennsylvania when the Archbishop chose the lands. He raised the money and created the plans. He fostered the Brotherhood and welcomed the first monks. He built the buildings and paid for the establishment and sustenance of the Orphanage out of his own funds. Most of all, however, Father Arseny established the first monastery in North America, rooted in the ascetic and spiritual traditions of the Orthodox faith. Working closely with Sts. Tikhon, Raphael, Alexis (Toth), and Alexander (Hotovitsky) in the years 1905-1908, Father Arseny, is described by them all with deep respect. In 1906, he was raised to the rank of Igumen by St. Tikhon, and in 1909 to Archimandrite by the Holy Synod.
I suppose such ‘external’ recognition has its place. I found it compelling, however, that in my conversations in the Summer of 2009 with a few esteemed archpriests of the O.C.A., who, as young seminarians knew the Archbishop in his last years, the word they used to describe his attitude was “repentance.” It is repentance that is at the heart of the monastic life. I hope, in due time, with their permission, to publish the transcripts of these interviews. They convey something of Archbishop Arseny’s own life and attitude – one of quietness and love, that should not be disregarded.
Archbishop Arseny proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus Christ
During his early ministry in Canada, then Archimandrite Arseny distinguished himself and served his flock by his Gospel preaching. A few allusive quotations shed light on this aspect of +Arseny’s ministry. It was during this time, 1908-1910,
that he gained the affectionate title, “The Canadian Chrysostom” for his extraordinary preaching talents. He became famous for his sermons, which being published in an Orthodox journal of the day, The Canadian Field, eventually were read in Russia by Czar Nicolas II. The Russian Emperor was so taken with his sermons that “in order to thank him for this ‘food for the soul’ (as he referred to the articles written by Archimandrite Arseny) – bestowed on him a gold pectoral cross sent directly to him by His Majesty’s offices.” (Historical Chronology, p. 17)
We hear, for instance, in July 1909, Andrij Herbut, who was Starosta (Board Chairman) of St. Barbara’s Church in Edmonton, Alberta, about one of Arseny’s visits where many came from all over: “But when they heard the famous preacher the hearts of lost sinners were softened and many of them shed tears.” (The Life of Archbishop Arseny, p.10)
Archbishop Arseny exercised oversight of the Church
In all phases of his ministry, +Arseny intentionally looked to many dimensions of the Church’s work, both in its personal and ‘institutional’ dimensions. This is apparent in his development and initiation of many endeavours. Wherever he served for any length of time, he began to establish not only monastic life, but also pastoral schools for training potential clergy. This is evident not only at St. Tikhon’s, where he founded the school that eventually became St. Tikhon’s Seminary, but also in Canada, at Sifton, and in Winnipeg. He gave attention to such practical elements of the Church as stewardship and fundraising, personally eliciting generosity and fostering a pioneering spirit in the work of sustaining “the Mission” in North America.
These three themes are but a few of the historical threads running through the missionary career of Archbishop Arseny, whose legacy is still felt throughout the Orthodox Church in North America. This post merely sketches some of these elements, and they will be drawn together in more detail later. For now, we must let the historical task of S.O.C.H.A. and others continue to examine the life and work of Archbishop Arseny.
By way of exhortation, I hope that we will use this experience of this hierarch’s potential glorification as an opportunity for growth and maturation in the Orthodox faith. As many have said, “God knows if Archbishop Arseny is a saint, or not!” Our task is to attend to what the Lord reveals to us, and to receive from Him what is given. Let us calm our passions and endeavor to sustain wholesome relationships in the midst of this conversation. That is to say, let us all heed the good word of the Holy Apostle Paul to the Corinthians. Let none of us say, “I am for Arseny,” or “I am against Arseny.” I have a feeling the Archbishop himself would be aghast at such an attitude. Rather, as we pour through the historical sources, let us all, as Orthodox Christians, seek to be for Jesus Christ, to draw near to Him – Who Is the Truth – in faith and love, and to discern with all reverence and diligence, those bearers of His love to us.
[This article was written by Deacon Matthew Francis.]
This past weekend, the Canonization Commission of the OCA issued a statement at OCA.org. According to Commission secretary (and OCA archivist) Alexis Liberovsky, the Commission will begin detailed studies of the lives of both Metropolitan Leonty Turkevich and Archbishop Arseny Chagovtsov, to determine whether the OCA should canonize them. Canonization obviously has a strongly historical element to it — after all, these are historical figures — so the potential canonization of an American saint is of special interest to historians of American Orthodoxy.
Here at OrthodoxHistory.org, we haven’t yet done a whole lot of work on Metropolitan Leonty, but he is a giant of an historical figure. The OCA statement provides a brief outline of his life:
Metropolitan Leonty [1876-1965] came to America as a young priest in 1906 to assume duties as rector of the seminary in Minneapolis, MN, which had been established by Saint Tikhon, at the time Archbishop of the Aleutians and North America. As a delegate from the North American Diocese to the All-Russian Church Council of 1917-18 in Moscow, he had experienced first-hand the horrors of the Russian Revolution. Upon returning to America, he sought to incarnate the conciliar spirit and groundbreaking decisions of the Moscow Council into the life of the Church in America in his every action. After the death of his wife, he became Bishop of Chicago in 1933. In 1950, he was elected Metropolitan of All America and Canada by a nearly unanimous vote. Many who knew him remember his personal holiness.
My favorite Leonty anecdote comes from Fr. Alexander Schmemann:
Great Lent, 1964. The special solemn service for all those persecuted for the Orthodox faith just ended at New York’s Greek Cathedral. At the end of the service Metropolitan Leonty approaches Archbishop Iakovos to thank him on behalf of the Metropolia. Something extraordinary takes place: the Greek Hierarch, in all his majesty, bows before the Elder in white, kisses his hand and says, You have a great soul.
Anyway, the statement goes on to outline Abp Arseny’s life as well. If you’ve been following our website recently, you know that we’ve devoted a good deal of attention to Arseny, particularly the 1909 rape allegations against him, and the subsequent criminal libel trial. In response to this, Liberovsky said, “The Canonization Commission has been aware for some time of the controversy surrounding Archbishop Arseny arising from allegations of serious moral transgression and unethical behavior, which has recently been publicized on the internet. These allegations, which Archbishop Arseny challenged in the courts a century ago, and attendant issues require further study and verification.”
It’s important to understand that there are actually two committees looking into the canonization of Abp Arseny. There is the main OCA Commission, of which Liberovsky is the secretary, and there is also a separate Canadian committee. Liberovsky explains, “[S]everal years ago His Eminence, Archbishop Seraphim of Ottawa and Canada established an Archdiocesan Canonization Committee in Canada, which conducted extensive research.”
Both the Timeline and Life of Arseny were produced by the Canadian committee, not the main OCA Commission. Having recently spoken with Alex Liberovsky, I am confident that the OCA Commission will exercise due diligence in its investigations into both Leonty and Arseny.
If anyone has information or source materials that might help the Commission’s work on either Leonty or Arseny, they can send an email to email@example.com; write to PO Box 675, Syosset, NY 11791; or call 516-922-0550 extension 121.
[This article was written by Matthew Namee.]
Last week, Fr. Oliver Herbel wrote a series of articles on the 1909 criminal libel trial involving Archimandrite (later Archbishop) Arseny Chagovtsov, who is currently being considered for canonization by the OCA. Fr. Oliver’s summary may be found at the following links:
- Part 1 – Introduction
- Part 2 – the Prosecution
- Part 3 – the Defense begins
- Part 4 – the Defense concludes
- Part 5 – Addendum
Keep in mind, Arseny was not the one on trial. The defendants were in charge of Svoboda, a Uniate (Greek Catholic) journal which had accused Arseny of rape. The trial focused on whether the defendants had committed criminal libel. As with most libel suits, this led to a serious scrutiny of Arseny himself, since, if he was guilty of rape, the defendants could not be guilty of libel. But, to keep things straight, remember that the prosecutor is pro-Arseny, and the defense is pro-Svoboda.
If you haven’t done so already, I would strongly encourage you to read Fr. Oliver’s summary articles before digging into the whole trial transcript. Also, please note Fr. Oliver’s words from his fourth article: “ The transcript itself ends with an adjournment due to the illness of juror number six. The court adjourns for a week and then there is nothing.” This is very strange, and we continue to investigate the whole affair. But, in the interests of transparency and to allow the public to come to its own conclusions, we are making the source documents available to all, immediately.
The transcript is very large, and we have broken it into six parts to make for more convenient downloading. Click on the following links to download the transcript:
And finally, to give credit where it is due, Fr. Oliver is the one who tracked down the transcript. He sent a hard copy to my office, where we had it digitized and then sent to Fr. Andrew Damick, who uploaded it to OrthodoxHistory.org. It was a team effort, but in the end, it was Fr. Oliver’s research that got this thing done.
[This article was written by Matthew Namee.]
As an addendum, I would like to make a couple notes.
First, I should state that there are aspects of the case and testimonies that I have not highlighted that may deserve further scrutiny and there are some details I have examined and/or questioned about which I could be wrong. When trying to see one’s way through such a convoluted situation as this case presents, that is natural.
My second note, here, is precisely along those lines. I had stated that it is my conclusion that then-Archimandrite Arseny perjured himself. I have since learned (through a lawyer-friend) that lying under oath and perjury are a little like squares and rectangles. Just as all squares are rectangles but not all rectangles are squares, so all perjuries are lies under oath but not all lies under oath are perjuries. To perjure oneself, one has to make a statement that can be proven false and that can be shown known to be false by the person under oath. Further, that lie has to be material to the case at hand. The first criterion is fulfilled in this case. Fr. Arseny knew he had a son and lied about it. The second criterion does not seem fulfilled since the question would have to be material to the alleged libel published in Svoboda. Svoboda published an article on the alleged rape, not on Arseny’s prior life in Russia. At the very least, it would take some proof and arguing to show how the questions concerning +Arseny’s life in Russia prior to coming to America were material to the alleged rape.
In light of this legal clarification, I must state that it seems to me that Archbishop Arseny likely did not perjure himself even though he did lie under oath.
The clarification doesn’t make me feel a whole lot better about +Arseny’s testimony, as he still lied, but I think this is an important clarification to note.
Anyhow, as I have already noted, there is more work to do and the evidence concerning +Arseny’s rape of Mary Krinitsky is inconclusive. May the OCA in Canada address all of this with due diligence and prudence.
Fr. Oliver Herbel, Executive Director
[This entry has been posted at http://frontierorthodoxy.wordpress.com]
The court transcript includes some mildly humorous lines. Obviously, they’re more humorous to those who are reading along through the entire transcript, but they’re good enough that I thought maybe after all I’ve posted, a few lines to lighten things a bit might be acceptable.
The first is a zinger from Arseny’s lawyer, Edward A. Delaney.
Smitkin: Now, you were instrumental in causing the arrests of these defendants, weren’t you?
Court/Judge: Well, that is a statement. Put a question.
Smitkin: Were you instrumental in causing the arrest of these defendants?
Delaney: I think they were instrumental in it.
The Second is an Exchange between the judge and Smitkin
Court: but you have no right to repeat and waste time. that is a waste of time. He says he knew her. Now, go on.
Smitkin: I am going to go on in the proper way.
Court: You will go on as the Court directs you. We have a thousand cases to try in these courts, and you must no consume time by your theatrical pose here.
Smitkin: I never thought I was gifted with that, your honor.
Court: Well, you are. You waste more time than any attorney in these courts.
Judge Mulqueen was obviously tiring of the case and later, on p. 122, he says, “I would like to get this case finished.” I have to say, by page 122, I could relate to a small degree. This is one long transcript!
Pages 132-3 provide a nice exchange as well
Smitkin: I have a ight to press my question, whether she did not testify yesterday afternoon that she did have a conversation with these two men, and that all she said was what they told her to say.
Court: Well, she does not know what ‘conversation’ means. She said these men took her and she signed that affidavit on the promise of money.
Smitkin: Now, while nothing pleases me more than to have your honor correct me, it does seem to me that your honor–
Court: Well, where is the testimony of yesterday? [Smitkin was able to proceed from there.]
Finally, there is the judge’s theory of linguistic interpretation:
Court to interpreter: You are a mere phonogaph, that is all.
In other words, the language was to go in literally and come out literally. Translating is not always quite so easy.
There are other areas that are mildly humorous. On 221, for example, Garvan tells Smitkin to ask a question and not make a speech Overall, the trial transcript is long and a little convoluted, but the punctuated one liners do help with the reading. Thank God for wit!